I was on edge. My stomach was stuck in twisted knots and my heart was lodged in my throat. I could feel my pulse at every second thumping nervously.
There were too many things to hide, to many secrets I was waiting to be brought to light. I knew it was simply a matter of time before everything came out. I was half tempted myself to just tell everyone the truth before the stress killed me.
I would lay awake for hours at night, Winter's presence cuddled into my side doing nothing to calm and assure me. If anything, I just worried how many more night I'd have with her.
So I was a little on edge.
I worried about everything which only made matters worse because everyone could tell I was close to going into full blown panic mode. And I was a horrible liar, so the constant interrogations of what was wrong with me only had me falling apart into a jittery mess whenever someone tried to talk with me.
My biggest problems were Roshan, Hakota, and Malik.
Malik already was aware of my situation so I wasn't worried about slipping up or just spilling out the truth to him. No, I was worried for his plan to be set in action. The boy knew I had failed, that I had no solution to dealing with Jeko and the Forest Kingdom. He's warned me that if I didn't act then he would go ahead and set the ball rolling.
Then there was Roshan. His knowing eyes followed me everywhere. They stripped away everything but the truth and looked at me with such sadness. How much he knew, I didn't know. Had he seen what the future held for Winter and I? Would he tell the pack if I didn't? Roshan was too mysterious. I didn't know what he knew and I was too afraid to ask in case I was reading him wrong and revealed unknown things to him.
So I kept my mouth shut and head down around him, doing my best to avoid him.
Hakota, however, wasn't keen on my avoidance tactics and was losing his patience. He knew me too well and easily saw through all of my lies and dismissals. He'd tried interrogating me countless times, each time getting closer to coaxing the truth out of me. When he failed to do it he sent Kieran and Cleo to try and get it out of me.
My guard was up for everyone, I was safe with no one. That added stress was breaking me down. I was dangerously close to snapping and to my misfortune Hakota could see that clearly and was swooping in for the final kill.
My friend had always been unrelenting when it came to getting something he wanted. He simply never quit, and every failure only strengthened his resolve. I had seen this myself many times throughout our history together. I had seen it when we scavenged the world for the last of the lycans, Hakota checking every corner or the earth for them. I had seen it when we were children in his determination to live. I had seen it when he built our pack and vowed to protect us, that not another lycan would die with him as our alpha. I'd seen it when we took back the Old Kingdom, when we won over the Lunars and when he refused to let the Foresters win.
Now, that determination was set on me and prying the truth out of my sealed lips. Statistically speaking, I didn't stand a chance against him.
But I was his beta, I was every bit as strong as him. I had been by his side through thick and thin, I knew how forceful his will was, but I also knew the way to strength my own defenses against him.
That didn't mean his brooding scrutinizing stare was any less terrifying though.
His blue eyes, so similar to his daughter's, glared at me, kept me pinned in place even though he was a few strides away from me, leaving me plenty of room to escape.
"Sitka," he said after what felt like eons of silence.
I gulped, waiting for him to tell me he knew, waiting for him to tell me the gig was up.
His eyes narrowed in on the nervous movement of my throat bobbing up and then down. "If your heart beats any faster I fear I may have to pick it up off the ground when it punches a hole through your chest."
Despite my surmounting terror, a little choked laugh broke free from my lips. "Then stop looking at me like you're seconds away from annihilating me."
The fierce look on his face faded into one of concern, which honestly was worse because it filled me with guilt.
In three quick steps he was nose to nose with me, gripping my shoulder in a bruising squeeze. "Damnit, Sitka, just tell me what's wrong with you. You look like you haven't slept in days."
"Well that's because I haven't," I grumbled under my breath.
"Why?" My alpha snarled. "Just tell me why."
I was able to refrain from shifting nervously, knowing the action would be a dead give away to my lie. "I'm just adjusting."
"It's been over a month, Sitka," Hakota called me out on my bullshit without blinking, "and you honestly expect me to believe that from a lifetime of our nomadic wandering, now you are having trouble adjusting to a new environment?" He shook his head, "Please. If you're going to lie to me, at least make it something I can believe."
There was enough hurt underlying his tone to make me flinch.
"What are you so scare of?" My friend demanded. "You've always told me everything, why has that changed between us? Why are you keeping secrets from me now?" In the smallest of voices he whispered, "Do you not trust me anymore?"
I sucked in a sharp breath, "Hakota I..."
Hope flashed in his eyes as I started, but it quickly dimmed when the truth lodged in my throat and I was unable to finish. His eyes hardened. "You went to the Forest Kingdom, Sitka," I opened my mouth to spit out my excuse but with a dark look from my alpha my jaw snapped closed. "And I don't for a second believe it was to scold the King about his nuisance subordinates." Hakota tapped my forehead, "So are you going to tell me what that was about?"
Again I tried to explain, to tell him something, just a sliver of truth so he wouldn't think I no longer trusted him, but all of the words caught in my throat and nothing but a strangled whine of hopelessness escaped.
My alpha, licked his lips, pulling away in disappointed anger. "Whatever it is, Sitka, I know I don't have to tell you not to endanger this pack."
And with those parting words he left.
My legs felt like jelly, going lax from their locked position. I stumbled back, catching myself on the wall from completely toppling over.
"Damn, you aren't going to last much longer," came the familiar drawl belonging to the white-eyed teenager who strolled over to me with the most unconcerned of expressions.
Malik slouched against the wall next to me, his shoulders scrunched up and his hands shoved deep into his pockets.
"It's fine," I told myself as much as I told him. "As long as he doesn't use an alpha command to get me to talk I can prevail."
The teenager quirked a brow, "And why are you so sure he won't?"
I glanced at the boy, "It's a breech of trust and abuse of power. He'd be invading my privacy and show me he doesn't trust me."
"Well, if he thinks you are endangering the pack, which he more or less said, then maybe you should panic a little bit more."
I snorted, "Actually, he said he knows he doesn't have to tell me not to endanger the pack which means he trusts me enough to tell him if my secret poses a threat if left unspoken."
Malik clicked his tongue and smirked, "How ironic, considering your secret risks war. He should be concerned about your silence."
I scowled at the blunt, and unfortunately correct hybrid. "Yeah thanks, I don't need you to make me feel guiltier than I already do."
"Just stating the facts," he sang.
I rolled my eyes. "Why are you here anyway? I thought you were supposed to be with Syn and Terrin."
"Yeah well, usually I can't last more than an hour or two with my Dad before we start pissing each other off." The boy kicked at the wall with his heel. "We had a fight so my father sent me away to calm him down and told me to make myself scarce tomorrow."
"Lune, Malik, what did you say to Terrin?" For him to be that mad that Syn had to step in told me that Malik had crossed the line this time around. Terrin was prone to bursts of anger but after he ranted he was okay and moved on. For him to stew over it for more than a day was not something to be taken lightly.
The boy sucked on his lower lip, "Well looking back on it, it was a low blow and I know I probably shouldn't have said it."
I thudded my head against the wall. "I certain you learned to mouth off from Terrin," I mused, "he always said things to provoke other people, he likes to pick at wounds too."
"Yeah but," Malik paused, blowing out a breath, "I brought up Heidi and the whole betrayal marking thing so..."
I jumped off the wall, "You know about that?" I asked incredulously.
The teenager gave me an unimpressed look, "Seriously? Of course I know about it. Obviously I don't know the full story but I pieced enough of it together to get the main idea."
"And you brought that up?"
Malik crossed his arms, "He called me irresponsible," he defended himself as if that was just cause.
"So you sassed back at him with the incident that turned Syn Wild and nearly cost both of them their lives?"
The teenager groaned and slid down the wall, "I know, I know."
"That was certainly irresponsible," I muttered to which the boy cracked open one eye to glare at me.
His white-eyes bored into me cynically as he snipped, "Well, damn, it seems like everyone is out to get me today."
Ignoring his whining, I nudged him with a foot, "You should apologize at some point you know."
The boy sulked, hugging his knees to his chest, "I hate that part," he grumbled.
"You have all night to get over it," I chirped, stifling a yawn.
Malik looked up at me, "Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you," he snapped his fingers and then pointed at me, "You look like absolute shit. You should actually try sleeping once in awhile. Worrying never solves anything."
"Thanks," I responded dryly, "I was trying to go to my room but everyone keeps stopping me." I turned to head down to my room and said my farewell to the problematic hybrid, "and by the way, you really suck at making people feel sympathetic towards you."
"And grouchy too!" The teenager called after me.
Reaching my room, I kicked off my shoes and changed, forgoing the shower as I collapsed on my bed. I really was exhausted. It wasn't like I didn't try to sleep, I really did. But lately it was fitful and plagued by nightmares. More often than not I'd wake up more tired from my taxing dreams than if I'd never slept at all.
I threw an arm over my eyes and sighed.
My bathroom door creaked open as my mate crept into my room, the smell of soap flooding from the conjoining bathroom into my room along with a wave of humidity.
Winter crawled over to me, curling into my side. "You look exhausted."
"So I've been told several times today," I mumbled shifting to spoon her properly, tucking her under my chin. She was so warm, her presence a blanket of comfort settling over me.
Winter's hands came up to lay over mine that rested on her abdomen, "We'll figure this out." She whispered softly but she didn't sound like she believed what she was saying.
I hugged her tighter to offer her my reassurances but she was still stiff against me. "Why are you so tense?" My voice was groggy as I was already half asleep.
Silence stretched between us, and I almost drifted off into sleep when Winter's small voice breathed, "I have something to tell you."
I nuzzled deeper into the mattress, pulling my mate against me, "Hmmm?"
One of Winter's hands reached behind her to cup the back of my head. "You sleep, it can wait until tomorrow."
"Mkay," I hummed in agreement.
I had almost drifted completely into unconscious sleep when a ghost of a whisper pierced through the darkness.